Poker bots are pieces of software designed to play online poker without human oversight. Unlike human players, a poker bot never misplays a hand, never goes on tilt, and can keep playing for an indefinite period without ever getting tired. Bots are also an inescapable reality of the online poker world, so it helps to be able to identify them when you play poker online. How to recognize a bot? Read on for ideas on how to unmask a poker bot at the table – and do something about it.
How online poker bots work
To spot a poker bot, it helps to understand how they operate. Basically, poker bots are pieces of software programmed to collect data on their opponents. A poker bot will remember every move you and your fellow players make and use the data to analyze the statistical probability of your actions based on your gaming history. Poker bot users simply crank them up, make a poker account for them to use, and wait as the bot’s flawless machine memory goes to work. And poker bots make awful opponents. You can’t intimidate them because they have no emotions. They don’t understand the concept of money, so they aren’t afraid to lose – they just keep grinding away, applying pure mathematical analysis to identify your patterns. Quite unfair, you’ll agree. So let’s take a closer look at how to recognize a bot.
Consistent time to act
A poker bot’s most obvious “tell” is taking the exact same amount of time to act on every one of its moves. Imagine the following scenario. You enter the pot by calling rather than raising (otherwise known as limping). Your opponent takes just a few seconds to ponder their move and raises. You call, make a continuation bet on the flop, and check. Your opponent thinks for precisely the same number of seconds as before and checks back. You bet on the turn, your opponent thinks for the exact same length of time and folds. Why is this suspicious? Well, you’d expect a human opponent to tank over some of those decisions. If this pattern continues over an extended period of time, it’s a fairly reliable sign that your opponent could be a bot. That’s because a bot only needs a few seconds to analyze the hand and reach the best decision its programming can provide, while human reaction times tend to vary.
So you’re playing in a tournament and the game’s down to three players. You suggest cutting a deal, and Player X agrees. Player Y, though, doesn’t answer in the chat. You call a moderator to nudge Y in the form of a direct message. No response. Without any communication from Y, you can’t cut a deal and have to keep on playing. Strangely, Y keeps playing their hands despite not responding to any communication. This is a potentially suspicious situation and could indicate that Player Y is a poker bot. Don’t jump to conclusions, though. A player might be unresponsive because they didn’t notice that you said anything or simply because they don’t like using the chat feature.
The opponent who just doesn’t ever quit playing could be following some kind of top-secret experimental endurance program, or they could be a bot. Imagine you’ve just started a session and you notice your silent opponent, Player Y, playing at a few tables. After a fun session, you’re about to log out when you notice that Y is still playing and decide to watch him for a while. You observe that his style of play is just as methodical and consistent at the end of a session as at the beginning. Okay, that’s not necessarily suspicious, but you decide to investigate further. You study this mysterious player for a few days and realize that he spends far more time at the tables than a reasonable person ever could. And he never seems to get tired, always playing in that consistent, systematic way. In all probability, you’ve spotted a bot.
Too many tables and games
Now that you’re wiser to the ways of bots, you start keeping a lookout. One day you encounter another opponent, Player Z, whose style of play and long hours set off a few alarms. Then you notice that he’s playing 20 tables all at the same time. This practically confirms that Z is a bot. The reason is that poker bots tend to maximize value through the volume of play. It’s even more telling if the suspect is playing different poker variants at once. After all, you’d have to be a machine to be able to handle Texas Hold ‘Em, Omaha, and Seven Card Stud all at once!
How to deal with a bot
So you think you’ve unmasked a bot. What next? The best advice is to lower your bets to minimize potential losses or move to another table. Whatever you do, don’t rush out and blow their cover publicly. It’s just too risky for you and the other player. If the player is banned on the strength of an accusation that eventually turns out to be false, they could suffer a lot of harm for nothing. And if it turns out that your accusation is unfounded, your reputation will be shredded in the eyes of the poker community. Nobody likes a player who’s always claiming that the game is rigged. The best thing to do is to contact a moderator to start an investigation. That way, you protect your identity and that of the other player until there’s a conclusion.
Live dealer games
One way to cut out the bot factor completely is to switch to live dealer games. Instead of seeing a bunch of player avatars in a two-dimensional online poker room, you play against a real live dealer who’s dealing cards from a real deck at a genuine green baize poker table. As for the other players, they’re certifiably human because poker bots can’t read real cards. You can join in specific live dealer variants of Texas Hold’em, Caribbean Stud, and other great poker live stream games. All in all, live dealer games are the best way to capture the experience of playing in a land-based casino without sacrificing the convenience of playing poker games online.
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